With 14 new smartphone security risks spotted every hour and software downloads on the rise, it’s not just “older geeks” who buy anti-virus programmes anymore.
Dominic Sacco asks Kaspersky Lab’s David Emm (right) and Lee Sharrocks (left) about the changing security market and the rise in Android malware…
PCR: Are viruses actually commonplace on tablets and smartphones? We haven’t spotted any yet…
David Emm, Senior Regional Researcher, UK, Global Research & Analysis Team: Your experience will be mirrored by most people. 2011 was a tipping point – we saw the same volume of global threats than we did in the previous six years. In 2012, we saw six times the number we’d seen in 2011, and so far this year we’ve seen more than half the malware we saw in the last eight years. Roughly we’re seeing 14 new threats for mobiles every hour – there are 200,000 malware samples every day. The biggest threat we’re seeing on mobile devices right now are SMS Trojans, which silently send messages to premium rate numbers.
Most people haven’t encountered a virus on the smartphone because they’re not yet using phones like they do laptops, for their online banking for example. [Bigger scams] will transfer onto mobile. We see backdoors, spy programs, password stealing programs… hackers will try to lead us into doing the wrong thing, because it works for them.
You’re tackling this with Kaspersky Internet Security – Multi-Device. What are the benefits and your sales expectations for this?
Lee Sharrocks, B2C sales director for the UK and Ireland: We’re very optimistic. In the retail space we’re only offering the Multi-Device product.
We’ve had good feedback from retailers and they’re keen to push it in the lead up to peak – they’re seeing PC sales coming down somewhat and device sales going up, so they see it as a really positive thing. A lot of our messaging is around why it’s important not just to protect PCs, but smartphones and tablets too. What will stand it in very good stead is that it’s called Kaspersky Internet Security – a strong brand name for us and by far our best-selling product to date.
I think what we’ll see happen over the next year is we’ll start to understand how many devices people have got. So we may look at changing the licensing model – there’s a lot of learning that can happen there.
What mobile operating systems does Multi-Device protect?
DE: Blackberry, Android and Symbian. 89 per cent of what we see on a week-by-week basis is aimed at Android. These guys aren’t looking at Windows Mobile. If over the next few months Windows Mobile took big traction in the marketplace, it would be tracked by cyber criminals. We would then look at that and address it. Equally, they’re not really targeting the iPhone, other than attempting to jailbreak it.
We also have a free-to-download product, which offers an on-demand scan for a mobile device, block threats, wipes data, tracks it and can even take a picture remotely or set off an alarm if the phone is stolen.
You’ve just brought your products to Amazon UK’s digital download store for PC and Mac. Do you expect more retailers to begin offering software downloads?
LS: I think they’ll have to, because if you look at UK retail at the moment, although it’s not in bad health in the electricals sector, we’ve had some casualties with Comet and the rest of it.
What a lot of the High Street stores are trying to figure now is how to balance their bricks and mortar side and digital delivery side. Our job is to map onto that with any of those delivery methods they want, which we’re well ahead of. There aren’t any distributors offering digital PC software downloads at the moment but I think there will be.
In light of software downloads and the rise of tablets, who is your core consumer nowadays?
LS: Simply it’s anyone who has a computer, but some of our own research tells us that the type of person who’s buying our software has changed. Historically, it was older guys who took care of the one PC in the house. But it’s more democratised in households now; everybody’s got an interest in the devices and tablets and so on. We still have that core of old geeks but we’ve also got families and younger people with disposable income for new devices, and they need it as well. Grandparents who’ve moved away and want to stay in touch with their families, too.
What does the future hold for the anti-virus sector and Kaspersky Lab?
DE: Technology never stops – more people will be doing financial things on their mobile device. One development will be our Internet Security technology, which safeguards online transactions.
We’ll always look at what tech we have in the wider pool of our products and which of those would be appropriate for mobile devices.
We’re also looking at what the cyber criminals will be doing. NFC is going to be an area that will grow. Nothing has happened in reality yet but cyber criminals will keep a watching brief on this. As soon as NFC starts to be widely used, they’ll think: “What can we do to undermine this?”
LS: The big push for the next couple of years will be Multi-Device and as that proliferates it will gain momentum. Electronic software downloads, distribution and point-of-sale activation [will also increase]. If you look across Europe right now, there’s only one or two or major retailers doing this, but I know from talking to some of the providers of that technology it’s really gaining momentum, and I think next year we’ll see even more digital delivery.
Kaspersky’s product range includes £29.99 Kaspersky Anti-Virus, which covers essential malware protection for PC, £39.99 Kaspersky Internet Security which offers premium protection, and Kaspersky Internet Security – Multi-Device. Multi-Device costs £49.99 for three-device or £59.99 for five-device protection. All prices are for a one-year licence.
Kaspersky research shows that three quarters of Europeans use more than one device to access social networks, while the same amount consider social media to be unsafe.
David Emm tells PCR: “The message we’re trying to deliver with this product is we’re protecting you, no matter what device you use. If it’s a smartphone one minute, tablet the next and then PC, we’ll protect you.”
Keep your friends close...
Kaspersky doesn’t just scour the web for new threats to provide anti-virus software – the company shares data with governments, police and even other anti-virus vendors, as well as publishing its own research. The firm recently put out a report analysing a cyber-espionage campaign targeting South Korean think-tanks.
Others include advising Apple users on how to avoid phishing scams, and a look at the risks of children accessing adult content on YouTube.
“We see it as our job to provide protection to customers, whoever they are,” says David Emm, Kaspersky Lab’s Senior Regional Researcher, UK, from its Global Research & Analysis Team. “We gain intel and share it with police agencies and other people in our industry, because at a research level there’s not really competition [between rival vendors]. There’s ad-hoc cooperation. “It’s to everyone’s benefit. If we stop sharing, we lose our listeners around the world, our means of getting information. We may be in areas where they’re not so strong, too.”
Factfile: Kaspersky Lab
Specialism: Security software
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